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Navy Marks Camp Lejeune Contamination Docs with Bogus "For Official Use Only" Label

The evidence that the Department of the Navy is using legally questionable methods to stop the release of information related to the water contamination scandal at Camp Lejeune keeps piling up.

An inside source informed us yesterday that a designation of "For Official Use Only" is being applied to Camp Lejeune water contamination-related documents—one of the many vague, pseudo-classifications the Obama Administration has done away with under an Executive Order. In the case of Camp Lejeune, this marking is extremely troubling—and has no legal justification.  

“For Official Use Only is a marking that has no legitimacy, as there is no statute authorizing it, or authorizing a regulation,” said Patrice McDermott, executive director of OpenTheGovernment.org. “When agencies such as the Department of Defense use it to bully or intimidate others into withholding information, it is not binding to anyone—including any other government entity.”

The confidential source also told POGO that the Navy is essentially twisting the arm of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), an agency in the Department of Health and Human Services that recently released a report on Camp Lejeune’s water distribution system. We are told that ATSDR is being pressured to submit the Camp Lejeune water contamination-related documents to the Navy for screening, redaction, and/or approval—and this includes all of the documents previously released to the public.

As Jerry Ensminger, a retired Marine who lived at Camp Lejeune with his family, told POGO, "It certainly appears that the Department of Health and Human Services is more inclined, in this case, to protect the polluter than the health of the people who were exposed at Camp Lejeune"

As we pointed out last month, ATSDR needs to follow the law—not blindly obey the demands of the Navy and Marine Corps, given their long history of covering up information related to the water contamination.

Last month, POGO and other concerned organizations sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta urging for rulemaking to ensure the proper implementation of the new, relevant FOIA exemption—the Department of Defense Critical Infrastructure Security Information exemption and its “public interest balancing test.” Under this exemption, specific information about the water distribution system at Camp Lejeune has a strong case for full disclosure. It is of vital importance to the public, especially in the interest of health and safety. But it’s increasingly looking like the Navy isn’t trying to uphold the public’s interests at all—it’s looking after its own.

By: Dana Liebelson
Beth Daley Impact Fellow, POGO

dana liebelson At the time of publication, Dana Liebelson was POGO's Beth Daley Impact Fellow.

Topics: Government Accountability

Related Content: Camp Lejeune Contamination Cover-up

Authors: Dana Liebelson

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